‘We are labourers, but we too have some self-respect’

“We are labourers, but we too have some self-respect,” said Monu, recalling his “embarrassing” experience. After leaving to his home in U.P. from Haryana’s Panipat in a State bus on Sunday morning along with fellow labourers, he was forced to return to his rented accommodation.

More than two months after the lockdown and after running from pillar to post for the past 48 hours to seek permission to go back to their home towns, 40-odd labourers, mostly daily-wagers in textile industry, boarded a State bus to U.P., but it stopped after travelling around 10 km and then returned a few hours later to drop them back at their rented houses.

“The landlord allowed us inside. But we too have some self-respect,” said Monu.

He recalled that the labourers staying in different areas of Panipat received calls from officials late on Saturday and were asked to reach the local bus stand around 5 a.m. to board a bus to their home towns.

“We walked several km with luggage to reach the bus stand. It was after seven hours of wait that they finally allotted us a bus around noon. But after travelling around 10 km towards Karnal, the bus stopped. Four more buses were parked there. We were told that the service will soon resume,” said Monu.

After waiting for a couple of hours, the labourers decided to walk with the luggage. “At this point, the driver started the bus and told us to stay inside. But they took a U-turn from under the flyover and returned to Panipat,” said the 25-year-old resident of Lakhimpur in U.P.

RTI activist P.P. Kapoor said it was a cruel joke on the labourers. He said the government had failed to arrange food for them and now was not able to even send them back homes with dignity.

‘Law and order issue’

Deputy Commissioner Hema Sharma said the buses carrying around 200 migrants had to return from Karnal after the police received a message regarding some law and order issue in U.P. She said the State buses went to Shamli, but were not allowed towards Saharanpur. Ms. Sharma added that the workers would go on Monday.

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